Lok Sabha Elections 2024: Green Activists Request EC Not To Allot Poll Duties To Environment Department Officials

Lok Sabha Elections 2024: Green Activists Request EC Not To Allot Poll Duties To Environment Department Officials

Director of NatGeo Foundation B N Kumar, Nandkumar Pawar of Sagar Shakti and Godfrey Pimenta of Watchdog Foundation signed the letter, stating that environmental destruction affects everyone.

Bhalchandra ChorghadeUpdated: Monday, April 08, 2024, 09:59 PM IST
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Election Commission of India | File Photo

Mumbai: Raising an important issue in the wake of general elections, environmentalists from Navi Mumbai have written to the Election Commission to spare the environment department officials from performing election duties. Director of NatGeo Foundation B N Kumar, Nandkumar Pawar of Sagar Shakti and Godfrey Pimenta of Watchdog Foundation signed the letter, stating that environmental destruction affects everyone.

The activists said that environmental protection is also an emergency service like the police and medical services, and said in the letter that during April-May, 2019, large stretches of mangroves and wetlands were buried in Maharashtra's Uran region in Raigad district.

Pointing out that environment officials could not perform their duties during the 2019 poll season, the activists pleaded, “We appeal to you to instruct the governments across the country to spare the environmental care-related officials from the round-the-clock election duties.”

The letter further stated that the 289-hectare inter-tidal wetland at Panje in Uran appeared dry as water inlets from the creek were frequently blocked, which was also the case with the DPS Flamingo Lake at Nerul. The 30-acre lake has nearly been dry and mangrove destruction and land grabs have been happening at a regular pace all along the coast at places such as Kharghar, Ulwe and Uran.

"The burial of wetlands and the resultant rise in the levels of the lands rendered the low-lying areas further low and caused unseasonal floods there. Many villages of Uran reeled under floods during the Holi festival in 2020 as tidal water found its way. Around the same time, we had high tide water inundating the central business district of Belapur," the letter stated.

The activists stated that there could be many more such violations across the country, related to pollution of the rivers and the sea, cutting of trees and discharge of effluents into open drains and gases into the atmosphere. Acknowledging the receipt of the letter, the Election Commission has ensured the activists of positive action on the concerns raised.

Hailing the Election Commission as kind enough to escalate the environmental issue with the concerned government officials, the activists are aware that elections need a huge force. In such a scenario, the involvement of the environmental department officials could be restricted to the bare minimum for the election duties to keep their watch on environmental care.

The environmentalists added, “None other than the Chairman of the High Court appointed Mangrove and Wetlands committees himself said he was away on election duty when we complained against the destruction of mangroves and wetlands in Uran. Luckily for us, the member secretary of these committees, Neenu Somraj, personally inspected the violation sites and halted the burial of wetlands in Uran.”

The officials of the Indian Forest Service and Territorial Staff of the Forest Department have been officially exempted from Election Duties under the notification issued under the People's Representation Act, 1951 and the rules made thereunder. The State Forest Officials including the Mangroves Department should also be granted similar exemption from poll duties.

“During the polling season, a maximum number of encroachments take place on forest lands including destruction of mangroves and forest fires,” the letter warned and sought immediate action.

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